Digitalization is changing sales

Digitisation affects all areas of our lives, including every single area in companies. Each of the different departments within a company benefits from digitalization and it is important to digitize not only a small part of the company, but all areas. Companies that are pioneers of digitalization generate on average a 3% higher turnover than without digitalization. If that is not a good reason to think about your own strategy for digitization!

Another effect of digitalization is that customers both find out about products online, as they increasingly buy online. Around 30% of the total population worldwide use online shops. This is an enormous market that is opening up for many companies. Thus, digitalization does not stop at sales and offers many possible applications here, whether for worldwide time-independent sales, for increasing efficiency or for improving customer loyalty. CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems are a well-known method in sales and have proven themselves since the 1990s. But some companies are already failing. Online shops are also offered by only one third of companies. There are many more innovations that can be successfully used in the course of the digitalization of sales.

What are the advantages of digitalization for sales?

The most important idea for digitization in sales is the creation of an online shop where customers can buy around the clock and worldwide. This saves rent for business premises and employees and offers the opportunity to reach new markets that a company with a physical presence alone could not tap.

Automated customer acquisition measures also offer opportunities to save costs and increase efficiency. Leads can be collected automatically, for example, by fields on the website, and annoying jack cleaning is a thing of the past.

In addition, digitalization allows sales employees to access digital (customer) data at any time. In the case of off-site business appointments, important information about the customer and his previous purchase history can be retrieved at any time at the company. This is a testament to professionalism and the sales staff can respond optimally to the wishes and demands of the customer.

In addition, new potentials for cross- and upselling are emerging. As an example, the automated analysis of customer data can suggest additional products or services that would suit the customer.

All of this means a higher completion rate, more conversions and therefore more sales for sales.

The digitalization of sales creates space to be able to put more focus on core activities, selling. Annoying and time-consuming side processes can now be automated and routine tasks and repetitive, lengthy tasks no longer have to be carried out by the salesman himself, but can be taken over by machines. For many employees, this can also mean new joy in selling.
In addition, digitisation will reduce the amount of travel activities. Video conferencing, collaboration tools, virtual demos, and augmented reality replace long journeys and high accommodation costs without sacrificing interaction and communication with customers. This creates new freedom and a balanced work-life balance and makes sales attractive again for older and experienced employees in the long term. Of course, the lower rice activities also reduce costs, which is a decisive advantage for distribution.

Not only experienced employees are once again more tied to sales by digitalization, but also young talents are again better enthusiastic about sales as a means of the changes. Classic but outdated sales tactics and cold calling deter young people and have therefore had a rather negative impact on the profession of salesman. If this changes with modern solutions of digitalization and individual, intelligent consulting is put back in the foreground, this also attracts more young professionals.

All these changes are also often summarized under the term Sales 4.0. But what exactly does that mean? The term stands for the intelligent use of customer data in order to be able to offer them fast, tailor-made and high-quality offers. This is only possible with automated sales processes and a merger of sales and marketing. Methods for selling change from push to pull approaches and the customer is brought into focus.

How does the digitization of sales processes affect a company?

Also known as Sales 4.0, the effects of the digitization of sales do not, of course, remain in the sales area. On the contrary, the whole company benefits from this and new synergies between the departmentsarise. For example, marketing and sales or purchasing and sales grow closer together and can support each other even better.

The resulting synergies and the automation of processes lead to a saving of resources for the company. Freed budget can again be invested sensibly and redistributed according to the time requirements.

The digitization and networking of the departments with each other also creates a 360-degree view of the customer, which was previously not possible in the form. These nine knowledge and customer understanding enable innovation and customer-centric orientation of the company.

The management also has to rethink through the digitalization of sales and integrate the sales strategy as an integral part of the company strategy. In addition, the selection of managers requires new skills that must be taken into account. Executives in sales should be receptive to new technologies and be willing to focus more on emotional intelligence and not ready-made sales discussions.

The changes affect both B2C companies and B2B companies.

What are the advantages of digitizing sales for the customer?

In the course of digitalization, customers are increasingly taking control of products and services. Due to the high and constant availability of products; through digital pioneers, which shift the bar of customers upwards, and by the dissolution of market entry barriers for new companies, the balance of power in the market is shifting more and more towards the customer. In order to meet the demands of the customers, the companies adapt, which brings the customer many advantages and a fulfillment of his wishes and needs. Customers can expect individual consultations and tailor-made solutions for them from digital distributors. If necessary, they can also be purchased online.

Orders are likely to be smaller in the future, as customers have the opportunity to look for exactly what they need worldwide. As a result, customers no longer accept prefabricated, general solutions, but rather pick individual services from different suppliers. This offers many potentials for individual solutions and most likely means greater satisfaction for customers, as they do not have to settle for general offers. For distributors, it is important to adapt accordingly and to offer offers as a conclusion also in smaller variants.

What changes do sales employees have to expect in the course of digitalization?

Digitalization is also causing many changes for salespeople. In the past, it was more a matter of advising customers in detail and convincing them of the characteristics of the offer. Nowadays, customers have often already made a decision when contacting the sales representative and just want to see themselves confirmed in it. This is the case because the Internet allows customers to find out exactly about a product in advance and compare it with other offers. Thus, a sales call often has a different course than before digitization. Cold acquisition and classic sales talks are increasingly a thing of the past. Today, sales representatives need to be able to look after each customer individually and not follow a pre-built scheme. Empathy, emotional intelligence and customer orientation are therefore qualities that now stand more than ever for a successful sales person.

The profiling of customers also places new demands on salespeople. Although customers are usually automatically assigned to specific profiles and the employee can get tips and recommendations for a particular profile through artificial intelligence, implementing them tactfully and individually is still within the employee’s field of action. This requires an accurate understanding of the customer profile and the person.

In general, therefore, the requirements for sales become more complex. But this also has a positive side effect for sales people. In the meantime, it is expected that the increasing demands and higher closing rates will also increase the salary level in sales.

The fear that AI will replace sales people is also unfounded. Instead, it will support them and take over preparatory work and routine tasks.
The opportunity, with all the changes and associated challenges, is to get to know the customer even better and build a long-term relationship with him. Human contact will therefore remain indispensable and sales representatives can return to the interpersonal. As a result, sales are once again a worthwhile and thankful activity.

What risks are to be considered if a company wants to digitize its sales?

A major risk in the automation and use of customer data is, of course, insufficient data protection. Unfortunately, regulations and laws on this are confusing and constantly changing, but it is important for companies to protect collected data to the best of their knowledge and belief.

Another risk is to be subject to cost pressures due to global comparability. Here, a well-thought-out positioning and a clear value proposition can be prevented.

What steps do you need for successful digitalization in the sales sector?

In order to start digitisation, it is essential to have a clear strategy. To do this, it is worth questioning the digital natives and taking their opinion seriously. These can be employees or customers.

The use of big data and the possibilities of CRM systems should also be exhausted and anchored in the digitalization strategy.
Another important step is to expand or enable direct customer contact, e.g. through social media, and to regularly find new distribution channels.

In collaboration with Marketing, appropriate information and relevant content should also be provided along the entire customer journey and at all touchpoints. This requires a lot of work,but with it important building blocks of sales 4.0 have already been set.

What are the challenges of digitalizing sales?

One of the biggest challenges in the digitalization of sales is certainly keeping up with the competition. The speed of new developments is rapid and new technologies are constantly being integrated into companies to make sales processes even more efficient and effective. So if you follow the innovations rather than be actively involved, there is a danger of falling behind the competitors. It is therefore worthwhile to always inform yourself about new developments and trends and to keep your eyes and ears open for creative applications in sales.

Another challenge is to design the digitalization of sales in such a way that it is compatible with or even exceeds customer requirements. In order to successfully master this, companies should always put the customer in the foreground and must act customer-centric.

Multi-channel sales also need to be managed effectively. A major challenge here is to equip all channels with suitable content, monitor and optimize it without losing track.

There is no way around the digitalization of sales

Customers are now online and make most of their purchases over the Internet. It makes little difference whether they are B2C or B2B customers. This trend will not be reversed in the future, but rather intensified. The digitization of sales is therefore necessary if the customer is to continue to meet where he is. Sales 4.0 is a prerequisite for remaining relevant in the long term and to keep up with the increasing competition. Unfortunately, only about half of companies have recognized that their sales strategies need to be improved and even fewer have a clear roadmap to optimization. The risks and challenges of the digitalization of sales are often mentioned, why it is not even started. However, the opportunities far exceed the challenges, working with a clear digitalisation strategy.

Future prospects of digitalization in the sales sector

Digital sales channels, virtual assistants and chatbots will probably be the order of the day in sales in the future. But instead of making human contact superfluous, they support and simplify it. For common questions, data and facts about a product, a customer can get help from vending machines anytime and from anywhere, and sales people save themselves the annoying answers to the same questions. For this purpose, they can then respond to the customer in a targeted and individual manner and really get to know him. The focus can thus be even better on the interpersonal, provided that sales cooperation has the openness to rethink and to focus more on social skills.